Illegal online commerce is booming

02.12.2022. / 9:00

SARAJEVO – Illegal trade over the Internet is flourishing, which also applies to trade in tobacco, cigarettes and other tobacco products. The authorities are aware of this and have many difficulties in fighting this form of trade. They are calling for changes in the law to make this fight easier for them.

Photo: Pixabay

Illegal trade over the Internet is not a significant problem only in Bosnia and Herzegovina, it is also a global problem. The influential British newspaper Economist has shown the extent of the problem through research.

The results of their research show that 60 percent of the products were illegally purchased online, and 35 percent on the street. So, the Internet has replaced the street in illegal trade.

The aforementioned research found that such trade increases corruption and petty crime by a third. Just some of the consequences of the growth of corruption are the growth of inequality and poverty.

Internet trade, including illegal trade, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as in the rest of the world, grew during the coronavirus pandemic.

Social networks are particularly suitable for illegal trade, and excise products are also traded – tobacco, cigarettes and tobacco products.

In addition to the pandemic, the growth of trade in these products over the Internet was contributed by their price, i.e. the amount of excise duty, which is significantly higher than the purchasing power of most citizens.

What does the ITA do?

Given that such trade significantly reduces the risk of liability, that the demand is high and that no taxes are paid to the state, it is a lucrative business.

The Administration for Indirect Taxation (ITA), aware of this problem, in the previous period more intensively monitored online trade. When asked by Klix.ba, they explained what activities they carry out.

Data is continuously collected on sites through which persons, who do not have a license to carry out activities, illegally sell goods. Attempts are made to identify persons (depending on the internet platform, persons are often registered under a pseudonym, which makes it difficult to determine their identity) and the types of goods that are sold, with the aim of finding these persons and determining whether they are engaged in illegal sales over the internet“, they reasoned.

If such persons are found, the owners of the Internet platforms are contacted in order to obtain the data of those involved in illegal activities.

However, as they emphasized in the ITA, providers or internet service providers limit the provision of the necessary data, because they believe that they only lease for advertising and trade and that they do not engage in the right to sell. This results in the submission of incomplete data.

The ITA highlighted some of the difficulties in combating illegal trade over the Internet:

  • Unclear legal framework and authorizations, lack of trained professional staff and monitoring software tools, and material and technical (in)equipment (special laptops, domains, etc.);
  • Absence of registration for the activity, therefore the goods are not accompanied by an invoice;
  • It is difficult to identify those behind profiles on social networks intended for commerce. There are also fake profiles on Internet classifieds;
  • It is difficult to identify the type and quantity of products sold over the Internet in order to determine whether these products have passed the customs procedure or are being smuggled and sold;
  • It very often happens that sales are advertised, but the goods are not even in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In that case, the person who advertises the goods orders them from abroad on behalf of the buyer, which is illegal, because he is not registered for business activity;
  • The import privilege in postal traffic is 300 KM, which means that goods can be imported without paying duties, however, customs officers have x-ray devices for analyzing suspicious shipments.

U UIO they do not have information about the share of tobacco, cigarettes and other tobacco products in illegal trade over the Internet and explained why they do not have that information.

Considering the large number of Internet platforms, both on the deep and dark web, as well as on platforms that are outside the jurisdiction of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and through which goods are sold in the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina, it is very difficult to estimate the share of such products in Bosnia and Herzegovina, because the platforms can be located anywhere in the world“, they pointed out.

They announced that they will devote themselves even more to suppressing illegal online trade and noted that it is a very complex issue that requires the cooperation of all competent authorities. The ITA emphasized that they cooperate with other institutions in order to suppress this phenomenon as much as possible.

What does SIPA do?

SIPA is another institution involved in the fight against illegal trade. He works continuously and often in the fight against tobacco and tobacco product smuggling and manages to confiscate large quantities of these products.

How big those quantities are, according to the data of the administration of this institution, that almost a billion KM, which is the budget of the state government, is lost annually due to this smuggling.

SIPA emphasized to Klix.ba that they collect data to suppress illegal trade over the Internet, which also applies to those published on social networks. They evaluated the cooperation with the ITA and other institutions in this matter as “extremely good”.

What are the entity inspections undertaking

The Chief Market Inspector of the Federal Administration for Inspection Affairs (FUZIP) Elmir Ramić pointed out that only one article of the law on trade deals with online trade, which he believes is not acceptable, that is, a separate law is needed.

I can freely say that this area in the FBiH is not adequately resolved and should not be treated by the law on trade, but a separate law should be passed that will regulate this issue in detail“, he stated and added that the Communications Regulatory Agency (RAK) should determine the conditions under which advertising can be done on the Internet.

Ramić pointed out that many citizens complain about the illegality of online shopping and that many of the complaints are related to fraud.

He reminded that the entity inspection cannot carry out investigations and that it is very difficult to trace those who deal with illegalities, because they publish false information on the Internet.

According to him, some cases manage to be solved, but that the majority of cases remain beyond the reach of the inspection authorities.

Speaking about how difficult it is to trace those who break the law, he emphasized that there are those who use a mobile phone card for illegal activities, which they throw away after committing several illegal acts, including fraud, and thus become unavailable.

He warned that buying from those who advertise on social networks is very risky, especially in Bosnia and Herzegovina. He called to buy only from verified companies and to check the product upon delivery and not to pay if what was requested was not delivered.

Ramić also stated that FUZIP cooperates with other institutions in suppressing illegal online trade, but that this suppression is difficult because this issue has not been legally resolved and because of the insufficient number of those who would be involved in suppressing illegal online trade.

Klix


Source: Capital.ba – Informacija je capital by www.capital.ba.

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